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« Why Support Green Businesses? | Main | PLA Corn Resin Plastic, Genetically Modified Organisms, and the Future of Agriculture »

January 29, 2008


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Although PLA is interesting, its use for plastic bottles is problematic. The PLA bottles mixed into the PET bottle recycling stream contaminates that process. The 24% recycle rate for PET plastic bottles is in jeopardy due to this contamination. Since no recycling collection or reclamition process has been developed for PLA bottles, they will be landfilled, not composted.
Anaerobic decomposition of PLA creates methane gas, a worse green house gas than CO2.

So aside from the food-or-fuel crop use issues, there are also end-of-life issues to be worked out for PLA.

Currently a lot of recycled PET is shipped to China for reuse in products, so it's profitable to do curb-side collection of PET. There is little profit composting PLA into soil, so curb-side recycling is unlikely to develop.

Tim Dunn

There are a lot of problems with PLA - If we made all of the plastic disposable items used in the world every year, it would take one hundred million tons of corn to make it. That would lead to mass starvation in the third world, as that represents at least 10% of the world's grain supply. Also, in landfills, PLA exudes methane when it decomposes-and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It also takes a huge amount of diesel to grow, fertilize, ship, and process this corn. As a practical matter, it is also not recyclable. The alternative? Oxo-biodegradable plastics. See http://biogreenproducts.biz for full information. -Tim Dunn

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